Compared with the full golf swing, putting looks so simple. In fact, many beginners already have putting experience from playing miniature golf.

But once you're on a real-life golf course, the putting green takes on a whole new dimension. The cup looks smaller, the slopes larger, the target a lot farther away. While beginners can typically aim their putts with reasonable accuracy, hitting the ball the right distance proves more challenging.

There's no magic tip that will get you stroking every putt just right, but practicing and playing regularly will help you develop feel in relatively short order. As your stroke becomes more consistent, you'll begin to sense how hard to hit the ball without having to think about the length of your back-stroke or other technical points.

Every time you practice, set aside at least 10-15 minutes for putting. Start from close range, within 2 feet of the cup, and work out from there. Most of your practice should be inside 10 feet. After that, move to 15 feet, then 20, 30 and 40.

From long range (15 feet or more), getting each putt close – within 2 or 3 feet – should be your primary goal. Don't worry about making putts from this distance. Practice putting uphill, downhill and sidehill and you'll learn to gauge the effect of slopes on the speed of your putts.

Here's a drill that will help you hit putts the correct distances: A Simple Golf Drill to Improve Your Putting Feel

How to Control the Speed of Your Putts

How to Control the Speed of Your Putts

You already know that you need to putt well in order to shoot low scores. Most golfers understand the importance of reliable putting performance, as basically every hole is going to end with the flat stick in your hands. Making plenty of putts will improve your scores, of course, and it will help your confidence, as well. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that you can drain a difficult par putt to save yourself after a few mistakes earlier in the hole. Take pride in the quality of your putting and lean on it when the rest of your game falters.

In this article, we are going to cover one specific piece of the putting puzzle – speed control. It seems that putting instruction is usually focused on hitting the right line, but you should be just as worried about distance as you are with direction. It is nearly impossible to hit a bad putt when you roll the ball the right distance. Even if you do miss your line, the accurate distance control means you shouldn't wind up very far from the hole – and you should easily be able to tap in your next putt to finish things up.

One of the common problems with putting distance control is that the average golfer simply doesn't practice this skill. If you do practice your putting at all, you probably focus more on hitting your line than anything else. You may drop a few balls within a few feet of a hole on the practice green, but that is probably as far as you go. As is the case with everything in golf, you need to practice your putting speed control if you would like that part of your game to improve. Later in this article, we will offer some specific tips for how you can practice your speed control. By investing just a short amount of time in the process, you should be able to take a big step forward in this area.

One other point which needs to be made before we get into the instruction relates to your equipment. Instead of frequently changing putters in an effort to find one which will work just perfectly for your needs, do your best to stick with the same putter as the years go by. By staying with the same putter, you should get a better and better feel for your speed with each passing round. Having a strong relationship with your putter is going to help tremendously when trying to get your distances just right. There is rarely much to be gained by switching to a new putter, so forget about trying to buy a better game and just keep practicing with the putter than you already know.

All of the instruction below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you play golf left-handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.

The Importance of the Sweet Spot

The Importance of the Sweet Spot

When hitting a shot with your full swing, you are very much aware of the importance of striking the sweet spot. If you manage to hit the ball with the sweet spot of the club, you will gain distance and you will be more likely to hit your target as well. What many golfers don't know is that hitting the sweet spot when putting is just as important as hitting the sweet spot with a full swing. Of course, you aren't concerned with maximizing distance when putting, but you do need to hit your line accurately. Also, hitting the sweet spot is going to help with distance control because you will get a predictable amount of power transferred from the putter to the ball on each stroke. If you miss toward the toe or heel, power will be lost and your putt will usually come up short.

To hit the sweet spot on the face of your putter time after time, you are going to need to use solid fundamental technique. A few of the most important technical elements of your putting stroke can be found listed below.

  • Keep your head steady. There are few things that will help your putting as much as keeping your head steady throughout the stroke. When your head stays still, your body will remain in the same place as the putter swings – and that is crucial when trying to make solid contact on the middle of the face. It shouldn't be difficult to execute on this point, but you are going to have to pay attention to it in practice. Focus your eyes on the ball, prevent your head from moving either from side to side or up and down, and let the putter swing freely through the ball.
  • Use a relaxed grip. You are free to use any style of grip that you would like while putting, as long as it complies with the rules of golf. However, no matter how you choose to place your hands on the club, you need to make sure your grip pressure remains light from start to finish. Holding tightly onto the grip of the putter is going to take away your feel for the stroke, and you will have trouble hitting the ball the right distance. With a relaxed grip, the putter will be able to swing freely, which is going to help you locate the center of the putter face over and over again. You aren't swinging the putter at a high rate of speed, so you don't need to worry about losing control of the grip while using light finger pressure. This point should be one of your main points of focus during practice sessions.
  • Stability in the lower body. This is a 'sneaky' way for your putting stroke to go wrong. Working on holding your head steady is a good start when trying to control your body, but you also need to make sure your lower body isn't moving around unnecessarily. The best way to track your lower body is to pay attention to any movement in your knees. While standing over the ball, take notice of the position of each knee – and then make sure that your knees don't move around at all after the stroke begins. When you combine steady knees with a stable head, you can be sure that your body is as still as necessary to hit great putts.

It is easy to overcomplicate the putting stroke, but focusing on these three points will help you to keep things simple. Keep your head steady, keep your knees steady, and use a relaxed grip. That's it. Work on those keys during your upcoming practice session and you are almost certain to hit the sweet spot of your putter more frequently than ever before.

Getting a Great Read

Getting a Great Read

Reading your putts accurately is often an overlooked part of controlling your speed properly. Most golfers think about green reading as trying to figure out whether the ball is going to break to the left or right, but that is only half of the equation. You also need to read the elevation change in your putt, as most putts are going to head at least slightly uphill or downhill. If you are going to get your speed right, you absolutely must analyze any elevation change that you are facing.

So how do you read the elevation change in your putt? To read the side-to-side break, you probably stand behind the ball – but that really isn't going to work here. From behind the ball, it will be hard to tell how much elevation change you are dealing with. Sure, you can probably tell if the putt is uphill or downhill, but you might not be able to dial in your read with any kind of precision. To make sure you get a great read on each of your putts, follow the process outlined below.

  • As you walk up to the green, you should already be paying attention to the slope of the ground. You can actually get some of the most important information about your putt from farther away, so don't let yourself be distracted as you approach the putting surface. Take note of the overall slope of the area and keep that in mind while getting your specific read.
  • You are probably going to walk first to the ball in order to mark it, so use this time to get your first idea of whether the ball is going to break left or right as it rolls. You don't need to pick a specific target line at this point, however. Just get another general idea of the slope while you are marking the ball so others can play.
  • At this point, you are going to work on reading the uphill or downhill element in the putt. To do so, you need to walk to the low side of the putt – the side toward which the ball is going to break as it rolls. You don't want to walk on your intended putting line, so stay a few feet of to the side and get yourself into a position which is halfway between the ball and the hole. From here, you should have a great view of what this putt is going to do in terms of elevation change.
  • Next, walk behind the hole to get another view of the side-to-side break, and then return to the spot where the ball was marked. Replace your ball, select a final target line for the putt, and make your stroke. While making the stroke, you should be thinking only about speed control. After all, you already aimed at the target you picked out, so there is no need to think about the line any longer. Focus on all of your attention on getting the speed right and you should succeed more often than you fail.

We know what you are thinking – isn't all of this preparation going to take a long time? It is true that getting a good read on your putts can be time consuming. However, you can learn how to go through these steps quickly while others are getting ready to hit their own shots. This work can usually go on 'in the background', as long as you are not walking while another player is trying to putt. You certainly want to respect pace of play, so do your best to get all of the information you need without slowing down the round overall.

If you are currently struggling with your speed control, it could be that you need to improve your technique. However, it is also possible that you simply aren't getting a good enough read. Use the advice in this section to gather more information about each of the putts you hit in your next round. Chances are, with this added information in mind, your speed control will quickly improve.

Making the Most of Your Practice Time

Making the Most of Your Practice Time

We are going to assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that you already spend some time practicing your putting on a regular basis. If not, that is the first thing you need to change if you want to make progress in your game. Putting practice is extremely important, and even just five or ten minutes at the end of a trip to the driving range can make a world of difference.

Assuming you do practice your putting, how do you go about improving your performance? If you are like most golfers, you usually just drop a few golf balls down within a few feet of a hole and work on knocking them in. Most golfers are obsessed with practicing their short putts, as if they are only going to see those shorts putts on the course. Obviously, that is not the case. On most holes, you are going to have to start with a long putt before you can get within close range of the cup. Knowing that to be true, you should be working on your lag putting just as much as you work on making three footers.

When you step onto the practice putting green to work on your stroke, consider using just one golf ball to emulate the conditions you will face on the course. Set that ball down near the edge of the green and find a hole on the other side of the green that you can use as a target. Roll your first putt, focused more on speed control than anything else. Once that putt has been completed, finish up whatever putt you have remaining to your target hole, then pick another up to use as your next target. Do your best to find long putts which test your ability to lag the ball with just the right speed.

During the average practice session, the 'drill' outlined above is really all you need to do in order to improve your speed control. Just give yourself long putts, do your best to get the speed right, and then repeat. It is a good idea to spend at least half of your practice putting time working on speed control, as this is an extremely important part of the short game. You do still want to spend some practice time working on short putts as well, so balance your efforts between those two areas.

In addition to spending practice time working on your speed control, you will also want to spend some time before each round adjusting to the speed of the greens for the day. As you already know, greens speeds will change from day to day, even on the same golf course. There are a number of factors which will affect how quickly the ball will roll on the greens, including maintenance schedules, weather, time of day, and more. As your tee time approaches, spend a few minutes rolling the ball back and forth across the practice green so you can develop an accurate feel for the pace of the putting surfaces.

As long as you avoid the temptation to become obsessed with short putts during practice, you should be able to improve your touch on longer putts in short order. You don't necessarily need to have any natural talent for rolling the ball the right distance – you just have to commit to improving in this area, just like any other part of your game. Sharpening your speed control through consistent practice will give you added confidence on the course, and it will certainly help you to save strokes.

Other Tips

Other Tips

Mastering speed control is a complicated topic, so there are several more points which need to be highlighted before we wrap up this article. Review the points below to round out your understanding of this subject.

  • Sometimes, it's okay to come up short. You will find plenty of golfers on your local links who think that every putt they hit needs to at least reach the location of the hole. While it is usually a good idea to stay on the aggressive side with your putting, you don't always need to roll the ball past the cup to hit a good putt. On some occasions, it will be a good idea to leave the ball just a bit short, intentionally. This is the case when you are faced with a long putt to a hole that is positioned just short of a downslope. Being aggressive in this case could lead to a long, difficult comeback putt after your balls rolls away down the slope. To give yourself the best possible chance at a two putt, lag the ball up conservatively and tap your second putt in without any drama.
  • Visualization is your friend. Before you hit a particularly long putt on the course, prepare yourself by visualizing the ball rolling from its location all the way to the cup. Carefully visualizing your long putts is a great way to 'see' the speed of each putt before you actually hit it. It takes some practice to get comfortable with the idea of visualization, so work on this as part of your practice routine before trying to use it on the course.
  • Positioning your ball. The performance you are capable of on the green is sometimes dictated by how you position the ball with the previous shot. This is particularly true when you are playing on fast greens. To make sure you don't put yourself in an impossible spot with the putter, do your best to keep the ball below the hole with approach shots or chip shots. Putting uphill is going to make it much easier to control your speed, as compared to putting downhill. You won't be able to find the low side each and every time, but get below the hole as often as you can and your putting task will immediately get easier.
  • Adapt as the day goes on. Not only will green speeds change from day to day on the same golf course, the speed of the greens can actually change as the day goes on. On a warm, sunny day, the grass on the greens will grow as the day wears on, and your putts will get slower as a result. Monitor this change and adjust your pace as necessary to dial in your distances just right.

The ability to control the speed of your putts is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a golfer. You are sure to face a variety of long putts during every round you play, and getting the ball down in two putts from long range is crucial to keep your score on track. Work on your speed control as a part of every practice session to consistently improve your game in this area. Even after you have made progress with this part of your game, it would be a mistake to assume that you can just move on to other things. The skill of rolling the ball at the right speed is something you need to work on constantly to count it as an asset on the course. Good luck!